As the first piece for this new column, she shares her latest efforts to address the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women(MMIW)
The Senator’s draws attention to the tragic case of Anna Marie Scott, discusses landmark legislation she passed into law with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, and calls for passage of her bipartisan BADGES for Native Communities Act to strengthen Tribal law enforcement and enhance collaboration on MMIW cases — one of the recommendations by the recent Not Invisible Commission report that her legislation mandated.
A Step Forward in Our Efforts to Combat the Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
by Catherine Cortez Masto
Anna Marie Scott was 23 years old when she was shot to death and found inside a burned car at the Galena Creek Bridge between Reno and Carson City. A mother of two small children and a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, Anna is one of many Indigenous women who have faced violence, gone missing, or been killed.
In the United States Senate, I sit on the Committee on Indian Affairs to be a voice for the 28 Tribal Nations throughout Nevada, and that means combating the ongoing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW) like Anna. Going back to my time as Nevada’s Attorney General, I’ve heard tragic stories from Native women who escaped trafficking, detailing the horrors they faced. I’ve worked with our law enforcement to help keep tribal communities safe. To really address this crisis, we needed to take action on the federal level, and that’s been a top priority for me since I was first elected.
Working together with Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, I wrote and passed the Not Invisible Act and Savanna’s Act, named after twenty-two-year-old Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind – a Native American woman of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe in North Dakota who was brutally murdered while pregnant. These bipartisan bills were both signed into law, giving the federal government more resources to coordinate with local partners and handle cases of missing, murdered, and trafficked Native Americans.
For too long, there has been a disconnect between the work of the federal government, Tribal law enforcement, and the Native communities we’re responsible for keeping safe. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Indigenous women and girls are murdered at a rate 10 times greater than other ethnicities and it is the third leading cause of death for Indigenous women. Furthermore, there is a big data gap that keeps us from fully understanding the severity of the crisis.
As part of my Not Invisible Act, we created a commission to bring together law enforcement officials, Tribal leaders, federal partners, and survivors and their family members to collect experiences from around the country and provide a report on how we can improve the federal response to the MMIW crisis. That report was recently released, and the commission identified both the challenges Indian Country faces and how the Departments of Justice and the Interior can work together to locate missing people, support survivors, and hold criminals accountable.
This is an important step forward in the effort to end the MMIW crisis, and I will continue working to ensure these recommendations are acted on and these laws are implemented so we can bring justice to the families of women and girls like Anna Scott who were taken from their homes. That includes working to strengthen tribal law enforcement, which is why I’m leading a bipartisan bill (the BADGES for Native Communities Act) to strengthen Tribal law enforcement and keep communities in Indian Country safer by providing more resources to recruit and retain police officers and ensuring Tribal, federal and local law enforcement are working together on MMIW cases. It also makes it easier for law enforcement to share information on missing persons cases.
There’s more to be done to address this crisis, and I will continue working with survivors, law enforcement, and service providers to help ensure the safety of Tribal communities in Nevada and across America.
Young women like Anna Scott deserve to be here today.